LunAero: Automated "Smart" Hardware for Recording Video of Nocturnal Migration
Moon watching is a method of quantifying nocturnal bird migration by focusing a telescope on the moon and recording observations of flying birds silhouetted against the lunar surface. Although simple and well-established, researchers use moon watching infrequently due in part to the hours of late night observation it requires. To reduce the labor entailed in moon watching, we designed a low-cost system called LunAero that can track and record video of the moon at night. Here we present a
... we present a proof-of-concept prototype that can serve as a platform for citizen scientists interested in observing nocturnal bird migration. We tested the video recording on clear nights from February 2018 to May 2019 when the moon was full or nearly full. Manual analysis of a 1.5 hour sample of video revealed a total of 450 birds, which is a much higher detection rate than previous moon watching efforts have yielded. The hardware described here is part of a larger effort involving software development (currently underway) to automate recorded video analysis. We argue that LunAero can reduce the labor involved in moon watching, offer improved data quality over traditional moon watching, and provide insights into social behavior and wind-drift compensation in migrating birds.